Beauty and the Beast

“A broken clock is right two times a day, Cogsworth. But this is not one of those times.”

Well – I was fashionably late to the party wasn’t I? Three and a half weeks late to be precise, but a promise is a promise (I promised my mum I’d watch it with her) and it was well worth the wait. I find I keep sighing when thinking about this film, a good sigh as opposed to a bad sigh. A wistful sigh of someone who got taken on a journey to a land once upon a time, got swept up and had a fantastical time, then got kicked out 129 minutes later. With so much pressure upon it, with the 1991 animation being regarded as the epitome of Disney’s late 20th Century renaissance, the weight of expectation could have ruined the whole affair. Instead the film is a truly enchanting retelling that is both wonderfully familiar and yet refreshingly, erm, fresh.

The stand out moments of the film have to be the set pieces – from the opening number to choreography of ‘Gaston‘ and *that* ballroom sequence there is so much wonderfulness to try and take in. The staging of each is beyond exquisite, so carefully and lovingly plotted with beautifully rendered costume and mise-en-scene. *Wistful sigh once more* those dresses – I want them all! These sequences really deserve attention and nominations during the next Awards season as they are of a spectacle rarely seen in cinema these days, let alone executed to such a high standard.

Unsurprisingly cinemas are starting to put on sing-along versions and it’s easy to see why. The songs are as catchy as you remember  and performed in the manner that does make you feel like you’re part of things. It’s just unfortunate that the soundtrack is not just friendly with auto tune, it’s overly reliant to the point of robotic on some of the tracks. I’m also still torn as to my feelings on the subject of ‘Evermore‘ – the Beast’s solo number. Google tells me that it’s an intentional tribute to Les Mis and Phantom; although that was clear when watching as I snorted during the setup and opening line, subtlety doesn’t really play a part here.  A sentiment that is also true of some of the CGI, particularly the rendering of the beast, which occasionally drifts into the distracting.

That’s my only criticism of the film, aside from wishing there was more Tucci – I really enjoyed everything else. The casting is superb. Stevens finds the right level of beastly charm. Watson – whose performance occasionally strays into a continuation of her Hermoine-isms – does a grand job of bringing Belle to life and making her semi-believable. Gad brought some of the best laughs and made what was once a barely memorable character into a standout feature. And then there’s Evans whose charisma almost steals the show. His blend of old school Hollywood hits all the right notes and had me considering at several moments whether being Madame Gaston would be all that bad..? Those moments where then concluded once Beast gives Belle the library – truly the most romantic gesture there is in cinema and surely the most envy inducing. Is that not every woman’s greatest fantasy? Certainly is for me at least – even a bouquet of books would suffice…temporarily…

All in all this might be most pleasant and enjoyable watching experience of the year so far. It’s energetic bordering on exhilarating, glossy and warmly told. It may be a tale as old as time but right now I think we could all do with a bit of magic.

4 stars

Beauty & The Beast’ opened in UK cinemas on March 17th.

        Year: 2017         Runtime: 129 minutes       Dir: Bill Condon

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke EvansJosh GadKevin KlineEwan McGregorIan McKellenEmma ThompsonStanley Tucci

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